Handouts from Creative NZ for grocery giveaways – the wacky world of the visual arts

Gobsmacked. What else can Alf say.

He is reacting to news of the opening of a grocery store in Wellington where the goods are free.


There is no such thing as a free lunch, as we all know.

And sure enough, we are talking about a venture which is being partly paid for by taxpayers and partly by ratepayers,

So is it a charity?

Nope. It’s a bloody art installation, part-funded by Creative New Zealand.

Dunno why that outfit has not been abolished.

The free store is part of the Letting Space project.

This cries out for explanation.

The Big Idea, described as the home of New Zealand’s artistic community, puts us in the picture:

Letting Space is a visual arts project funded by Creative New Zealand and the Wellington City Council, which through discussions and exhibitions seeks to transform the relationship between artists, property developers/ owners and their city.

As the effects of a recession on the property market continue to be felt, Letting Space explores creative ideas for the use of vacant commercial space, be it a shop, office block or apartments.

The Letting Space series is curated by Sophie Jerram and Mark Amery.

A visual arts project?

But does a shop giving away food seriously sound like art to you?

Radio NZ alerted Alf to this bollocks with a report that said:

The Free Store is collecting food and waste contributions from the Progressive Enterprises supermarket chain as well as leftover stock from coffee roasters and bakeries.

The groceries are on display at a shop in the central city for people to take away at no cost.

The project is a fortnight-long art installation, which has received some funding from Creative New Zealand.

Organiser Kim Paton says the shop will give its remaining stock to social agencies at the end of each day.

Remaining stock?

Does she seriously expect not to have sold out – if that’s the right expression, in the case of give-aways – by the end of each day?

The Big Idea, fair to say, does describe Paton as an artist.

But she sounds more like a social shit-stirrer with a smattering of knowledge drummed into her during a few economics lectures.

Paton intends to highlight the underground ‘free economy’ that redistributes produce and food around Wellington, and is currently making a call to sellers of fresh produce, as well as to cafes and supermarkets for their excess stock.

Free Store will stock a range of fresh produce and some grocery items. It will look and feel like a small, vibrant and cared for independent business but offering a range of products for free.

Then we are treated to a smattering of the thinking behind this nonsense:

“What is waste?” asks Kim Paton. “One unsold apple is much the same as another that might have been sold ten minutes earlier. We define wasted produce only in terms of timing. Unsold produce does not have to be ‘wasted’ but can be made useful through re-distribution.”

Okay. She has been thinking long and deep on the matter of waste.

What else?

She sees her store as a collection point for those who want to provide any excess stock to key social agencies.

Another aspect of Paton’s work has been in discovering the existing transfers of food that occur after trading stops. “I want to make visible the existing relationships between those food retailers who do already provide to food banks and other social agencies,” Paton says.

“It is making public the point in the supply chain that is usually unseen. I hope to raise discussion around how we define the value of a product and what we do with our waste.”

For the record, The Big Idea tells us Kim Paton is a fine arts graduate of Massey University Wellington who has had major work appear recently at the Govett-Brewster, New Plymouth, Adam Art Gallery, Wellington and at City Gallery Wellington as part of Prospect 2007.

But maybe she has not been a successful artist, because she has been running a grocery store in the Waikato for the past three years.

Betcha she doesn’t give the stuff away for free from that store.

One Response to Handouts from Creative NZ for grocery giveaways – the wacky world of the visual arts

  1. Mums the word says:

    I suspect the supermarkets, bakeries etc don’t actually want their giveaways publicised. I once helped with doing collections from bakeries after they closed, picking up bags and bags of goods baked that morning, but obviously not suitable for sale the next day. This food was destined for a foodbank/ soup kitchen. The requirement from the bakery is that we tell no-one where it came from, and we’d have to collect it discreetly from the back entrance.
    They simply didn’t want it known that they give away food at the end of the day, as it leads to people asking them directly in the shop if they can have the left-overs. Bad for business.

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